Spheres of Power

Posted on 30 October 2018

Certain spheres of human activity tend to give groups even more power. This is due to their centrality to how we see ourselves, how we relate to one another, and how we organise our society for our mutual survival. Most spheres of power we cannot do without, such as government and education. For instance sanitation is for the collective good, so we need governments to build sewerage systems in order to stop the breeding and spread of disease. We then also need people educated in how to design and build that system. Every time you sit on a toilet its worth feeling thankful for the benefits of government and education. Just be aware of where any sphere of power can slip from being benevolent to malevolent.

Primary spheres of power are:

* Education

* Military

* Religion

* Business

* Government

Education

Schools for instance can be about preparing people to successfully contribute to their society. They can be about making fruitful connections with our contemporaries and learning how to collaborate. Education can be about opening minds: learning how to understand, how to think, how to discover, how to create, and how to make decisions. Education should prepare a person to go out into the world and make of it a better place.

Schools can also be a place of indoctrination. They have been used to teach students to value competition, to understand hierarchies, to accept being made a cog in the wheels of their country’s ambitions. Instead of being about knowledge and its thoughtful application, schools may become the tools by which you learn to know your place.

You will know which direction your education is pointing, depending upon how much freedom you have to question authority. Respectful skepticism should be embraced, and teachers should be prepared to challenge and be challenged in a healthy manner. If, on the other hand, students are afraid of asking serious questions, then they are being programmed to serve an authoritarian society.

Just remember that ideas have power. Educational institutions are places where ideas can fruitfully germinate…when you engage with teachers, read books, or have deep and meaningful conversations with your friends. Sometimes an idea can take off and change everything. Certain people will embrace such change, others will be terrified. In some people’s eyes what I am doing here in this book is dangerous, because I am attempting to spread the idea that you have the power to make the future a very different place–a place worth living in.

Military

The military has a tremendous potential for evil. This is because they are given the tools by which to eradicate life.

The citizens of a country rely on their military to keep them safe from outside forces…Sometimes to help restore order in disaster zones, such as by helping with bringing in food and other supplies.

A government can rely on their military to protect their country, to protect their allies, to forward ambitions of extended world control, and to control their own citizens. A properly constituted government should not be able to use its military in an abusive manner. Nevertheless, people regularly come to power who feel it is their right to bully others for their personal gain. Always question whether a person is seeking a role in government because they wish to represent the best interests of their electorate, or because they feel entitled to glory.

However, it is important to remember that it is not the government alone who benefits from a strong military. Various companies stand to make a lot of money every time a military budget is increased. Somebody has to make the guns, tanks, bombs, planes, uniforms, field rations, etc. With the money these companies make provisioning the military, they can create supplies that they sell to the police, security companies, and other countries. The more fearful and dictatorial the world becomes, the more money they make. And money can buy political influence…the influence of people who like the idea of wielding tremendous destructive power and terrifying others into doing exactly what they command.

What has happened in many dictatorships is government and business think because they have big military, they have pocketed all power. That is until people in the military feel misused or an itch for power of their own, at which point they stage a military coup.

It is useful having fire to warm ourselves on cold nights and to cook food. It is not so useful burning down the whole damned forest. We cannot create so much military that we are simply preparing for the complete destruction of our planet. We the public must think seriously about what is a reasonable amount of military power, and we cannot let our fear determine the answer.

Religion

Religion will probably be the most controversial sphere of power listed here. Nevertheless, it needs to be addressed because of the controversy that arises due to its incredible influence, which can potentially be used for good or evil.

Religion is more than just a belief in a God or an afterlife. It is a culture, a system of values, a community, and in a number of cases a transnational organisation.

Religions can promote art. They can train and support people in expressing life-affirming values. They can look out for the welfare of their members, and through charitable acts look out for everyone’s best interest.

People can feel strongly about their religion because it gives them a sense of identity, and gives them a tribe to which they belong. Those are powerful bonds. Making use of those bonds can give a person in authority the ability to enforce their view of the world.

Religion like business has power that goes beyond borders. This makes governments nervous. Sometimes governments will try to make use of that power. Sometimes in fear they will seek to eliminate their competitors.

Power seekers are forever trying to subvert religious power to their own ends. A religion can expressly be about helping the poor but generations of people, who are members simply because their parents were members, can easily forget such values or disregard them, recasting their religion as one where we recognise who is beloved of God by their riches. By gaining influence in a particularly large religion they can influence politics in many countries.

Personally, I do not feel comfortable with any organisation that does not share power with its members. Some religious organisations are democratic and do provide for transparency and oversight of their leaders. Others have been busily giving this whole field of activity a bad name by relying on a publicly unelected elite who see themselves as above and beyond reproach.

This is why separation of church and state became a thing. Any large scale organisation that is not itself democratic will have the power to subvert a nation’s democracy.

Without being expressly stated many countries also have a clear separation of military and state. What we don’t have is a sufficient separation of state and that other transnational sphere: business.

Business

We all need a variety of goods and services in order to survive.

Within a family each family member may contribute to the well-being of other family members in a number of ways: growing a garden, making clothes, cooking food, repairing the roof. No one is necessarily paid. However, all are expected to pitch in as best they can: mom, dad, granny, grandpa, the kids… This works because everyone cares about one another, or at least understands their role.

Many nomadic cultures work in this way as well. Anyone who has ever gone on a group hiking vacation understands why this is so. Once they are in the wilderness, people rely on one another. They must share food and shelter. They cannot afford to deny anyone of necessities, because each person is a necessity to the survival of the group. They need sufficient numbers of people to gather wood, look out for predators, and to rescue one another should anything terrible happen.

Let us say in a hiking group someone accidently breaks their leg. You will need at least one person to stay with the patient and one person to go get help. Imagine what this situation would be like if people had to start haggling as to how much it should cost to save the one hiker’s life, rather than just doing what is needed.

Money was not invented to make trade easier. People have been perfectly capable of sharing among themselves for a long time. Money was invented to make it easier for people to exchange goods and services with other people who they do not know and do not trust.

With money you have a means to standardise the value of any object or service. This is not an absolute standardisation: after all, we frequently comparison shop for things. However, you will find prices for bananas in one area will be roughly the same all over. There is a sense of fairness to this, even if a thing is valued highly solely for cultural reasons. Also, you are now no longer hampered by having to find someone who needs a cow in order to trade for bananas. Sell the cow to the cheese maker, then use the money to buy fruit. Just remember that in a close-knit community that would have been everyone’s cow, and the fruit would have been everyone’s fruit. We would not need this extra step.

However, funny things happen once you introduce money. First of all, people start thinking less about what is ours and more about what is mine. Everything you claim as your own is something you can rent or sell. This is why nations are so keen to be the first to put their flags on moons and planets.

Certainly before there was money people would hoard things in order to manipulate others. However, by abstracting trade from things to markers of value (an apple for an orange vs an apple for two coins), it becomes easier for governments and businesses to streamline hoarding value.

With a sales tax a government takes a little value from everyone for each monetary transaction. This is rent for making use of federally backed markers of value. If you have a benevolent democratic government, whether or not this is a fair means to hoard, ultimately this should be like a squirrel gathering nuts for the winter and will benefit everyone.

Now let’s say a business inserts themselves into this dynamic. People find it difficult to carry around the federal markers of value. So, they invent the credit card which is like an electronic purse, only much lighter. More than that, it makes it possible for people to make promises of payment for when they next receive a tally of how much their work is being valued. For managing these numbers for you and creating more trust between yourself and a trader, the business charges rent that it automatically extracts from you on a regular basis.

Money for using the credit card will go toward offices, equipment, and employees. All the employees may work the same amount, but some will be given a much bigger share of the rent than others. Those working in the company have no democratic say in how the money is dispersed. Nevertheless, since we now have a society that relies on markers of value, these people put up with living most of their lives within a feudal society in order to have enough to live.

The money that is being hoarded at the top of the business may even be removed from that country and held or used in another country. Every time that happens a certain amount of value is no longer available to either a people or their government in the originating country. Any number of countries right now have been bankrupted, not because their people did not manage their money well, but because large companies have removed so much value from them.

Money represents your work. Your work is power. Companies can, do, and have hired armies to enforce their will. Hoarding money is not simply about greed, it is about power. Businesses will often buy an even greater share of power from governments or takeover altogether. An example is the Dutch East India Company, which was the first transcontinental company-state.

Government

Government is often seen as the absolute executive of all power.

When people feel oppressed the government is an easy organisation upon which to heap blame. Sometimes, even many times, this is a reasonable summation of where responsibility needs to land. However, if people do not look closely enough at the situation then they may overlook who is pulling the strings and not adequately deal with them. They may even conclude that all government is bad and we should do away with government all together.

The more human beings live in an area, the more their relations have to be managed in order to ensure peace and security. We do not want our government telling us what we can read, what we can say, who we can associate with, etc. We do want our government providing education, health care, clean water, protection from violence, etc. These are critical services.

One sort of government sees its people solely as resources for feeding, clothing, and housing itself and its supporters in style, while having the human numbers to bully other nations. Such a government will tend to its citizens only in so much as it is useful for them to do so. Such a government will want to keep its people busy enough, desperate enough, and disempowered enough to ensure no one is willing or able to counter those in control. This only works up until sufficient people feel they have nothing to lose in rebelling. So, even dictatorships will provide just enough services to keep the populace pacified.

Government of the people, by the people, and for the people can only be as successful as people are willing to engage with it and protect it.

First and foremost people need to vote! This must be understood to be a solemn duty. In Australia everyone of age is required to vote. Voting booths are up for a week and are readily available in all districts. People have easy access to absentee ballots. Those who do not turn up to vote are fined. This does not mean people cannot be manipulated to vote for authoritarians, but it means whether they recognise it or not, the power remains in the hands of the people.

To vote intelligently people must have available to them a free and thriving press which keeps them informed of issues locally and across the nation. They must be made aware of how they are being represented by their politicians. They must know who has influence with these politicians. They must be able to expect transparency as to the actions and motives of their government.

To vote intelligently people must also have access to an education. We need people to understand the affairs of their nation and to be capable of participating in its running. People should be capable of grasping the big picture when it comes to their welfare, the welfare of their neighbours, and the welfare of their country’s populace.

If a country begins to fracture along lines of race, religion, class, and the like, it is no longer for the people, but for certain people. This is where injustice and gross inequity creeps in. A government can only ever be as fair-minded as the people who support it.

If a government has become riddled with corruption, then we need to take a good hard look at our cultural priorities and how that has played into creating these circumstances. We must then make cultural changes while retaking our government. That’s pretty much at the heart of what this book is all about.

This is from a book I am writing on Wattpad.


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